Archive for June, 2013

Overcoming Eight Common Obstacles of Teaching Online

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

Anyone who teaches online has run into problems within their courses. Some of these problems can be complicated and if not correctly resolved can do major damage to the online instructor’s reputation and opportunity for teaching future courses. This column tackles the worst of these.

Culled from hundreds of emails I have received over the years from online instructors, as well as from my 18 years of online teaching experience, the obstacles and their solutions that follow have come up more than any others. Yes, there are many left out—please add in the comment box any you feel deserve a place on this list.

  1. Losing all power and other related interruptions. We can control nearly all of our efforts in the online classroom, but not being able to interact with our course due to a power failure, a server issue, or a broken computer and/or piece of software on our end can throw the class into chaos. Not to worry, as long as there is a Plan B: the first day of class always ask students to send you their phone numbers and personal email addresses. If one of these problems occurs, you can still contact them. This way, you can always keep students in the loop.


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Do away with black sheep

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

EVERY profession has its fair share of black sheep. Teaching is no exception.

If we want quality teachers, then identifying these black sheep is a necessary first step.

Who are they? They are the uncommitted, irresponsible, uninitiated, lackadaisical, indifferent, manipulative and even deceitful teachers. They are a bane to the noble teaching fraternity.

We need to expose their “traits and tricks” so that those who are practising them may be pushed to feel ashamed and hopefully repent and begin anew in the right way.

Young and new school administrators also need to be made aware of the unscrupulous and indiscipline acts of these errant teachers and know how to deal with them according to service disciplinary regulations.

So, how do these black sheep “operate”? In my 32-year formal engagement with education — in teaching as well as in school administration — I had come across some difficult colleagues and staff. I believe that their “clones” continue to exist in our schools today.

Let me share a few cases. First, as senior assistant (academic), my duty included supervising the running of the school library.

Upon reporting to the school, I was soon taken on a “guided” tour of the library by the library teacher. He explained as we moved along and soon we were at the “works” section.

by Liong Kam Chong, Seremban.

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Becoming digitally savvy

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

Technology may not be everyone’s cup of tea but with young “teachers” everywhere, embracing the digital side becomes a piece of cake.

AT THE time of writing this article, my younger daughter was in Madrid, Spain, watching a bullfight.

She sent me a 30-second video of it through WhatsApp along with the words: “Mum, the matadors kill the bull at the end and throw a piece of it to the crowd!”

Meanwhile, my elder daughter was at Sepang, catching her first car race in the Malaysian leg of the Super GT. Also using WhatsApp, she sent me some shots of the event, including a photo of herself taken with a model next to a fabulous car.

Within minutes, I received another message, this time from my husband informing me that he had landed safely in Jakarta, Indonesia. His message was accompanied with a love emoticon.

Isn’t technology amazing? I was at home in Malaysia yet I could communicate with and feel connected to all three members of my family.

Digital storytelling

Last week, I finished a book that I feel all English language teachers should read. Written by Lisa C. Miller, it highlights the technique of digital storytelling; a method of teaching writing in which students use their own words and images to convey content in a digital format.

Because creativity, writing and research are still involved, it is a powerful method of taking a student from “reluctance to stamina”.

Personal stories matter. And, if they can be told using a digital format students love to be engaged with, it will also encourage them to write. Here is where teaching writing comes in.

The teacher gets her students to brainstorm and draft a story. Once the writing is done and illustrations are picked, the story is then digitally recorded in the student’s own voice. Images, words, voice-overs and music make the final digital story.

by Nithya Sidhhu.

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Ways to boost teaching of English

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

In part two of his article, Tan Sri Yong Poh Kon puts forward a multi-pronged approach that can be adopted to reach the goal of improved English literacy among Malaysians. Reintroduction of English-medium schools along the lines of private and international schools but affordable to a larger segment of the population is one of the options.

WITH the Education Blueprint currently being finalised, there remains an excellent window of opportunity to re-chart our course for the future. At the primary school level where parental choice is significant, it appears that the dream of a national school where students of different races come together at age seven is more unattainable than it was in 1970.

In 1970, almost a third of the students were enrolled in English-medium schools which were ethnically mixed and growing in significance in terms of share vis a vis other language medium schools before the policy was abruptly changed.

Fast forward to present day and it is patently obvious that after four decades of implementation of the policy, our primary schools have become more ethnically separated – statistics on student enrolment in national schools reveal that 94% of the students are Malay and 96% of Chinese parents now enrol their children in Chinese schools, up from 50% in 1970.

Mother tongue

Ironically, it is the Chinese vernacular schools which are now the most ethnically mixed, with a good 9% from the Malay community and 3% from Indians and others.

For a large and growing proportion of Malaysian families, English has and remains the effective language of communication to the extent that it has become a mother tongue. Such families no longer speak their ethnic tongue.

Much has been said about the pursuit of national unity through the study and use of a common language, Bahasa Malaysia (BM).

However, this does not and cannot mean that learning and pursuing knowledge in languages other than BM will erode national integration efforts, patriotism or make us less Malaysian.

Virtually all our past and present prime ministers were educated in English-medium schools. In fact, the current Minister of Education I and II went through English-medium schools and universities. They are certainly not less nationalistic on account of that experience. On the contrary, they are more confident and accomplished on the Malaysian and international stage because of it.

By bringing back the option of English-medium schools, teaching not only science and maths but other subjects like geography and literature in English will allow us to tap into world-class curricula, textbooks and, more importantly in this Internet age, enhance access to virtually unlimited storehouses of up-to-date knowledge which are predominantly in the English language.

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Fight corruption on all fronts

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

IN the ongoing war against corruption, we tend to distinguish between major and minor cases, even though the principle elements are the same.

We get excited over the cases where big names and big sums of money are involved because that is an indication that the graft busters are really going after the big fish.

Smaller cases, the so-called ikan bilis, rarely excite us because we think they are too commonplace and not worth the time and resources spent to nail them.

Two cases reported last week exemplify this scenario.

The first case, which hit the front page of this newspaper, was about chartered arbitrator Yusof Holmes Abdullah being charged with soliciting RM6mil from a businessman in George Town.

Entrepreneur Datuk Siaw Teck Hwa was charged with abetting Holmes. Both pleaded not guilty.

It is reportedly the first corruption case involving an arbitrator and the arbitration community is reeling from shock that one of its practitioners has been charged with such a serious offence.

Further inside the newspaper, there was a report about a Malaysian lecturer being sacked by his university after he had pleaded guilty to corruption charges in a magistrate’s court in Perth.

Foong Tuck Cheong admitted to taking bribes of A$1,500 (RM4,340) and A$3,000 (RM8,680) to raise his students’ marks.

The RM6mil in the first case and the small sums in the second are poles apart, but the fundamental reasons for the giving and the taking remain the same to manipulate the outcome of a decision.

The Star Says.

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Help for 22,000 students

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

GOOD RESPONSE: School-in-Hospital programme sees an increase in number of students over the years.

KUALA LUMPUR: MORE than 22,000 students have benefited from the School-in-Hospital (SDH) programme since it was launched in 2011.

The programme, which is available in eight hospitals in Peninsular Malaysia, was formulated under a joint collaboration between the Education Ministry, Health Ministry and non-governmental organisation Hati Nurani, a committee under the Nurul Yaqeen Foundation.

Puan Sri Noorainee Abdul Rahman, the wife of Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who is also Hati Nurani patron, said the SDH programme was established to provide formal education to pre-school, primary and secondary school students who were undergoing treatment in hospitals.

“From July 2011 to April this year, 22,174 students who were admitted at these hospitals received lessons from 10am to noon and from 2pm to 4pm,” she said during an event yesterday, where several corporate companies presented aid to the foundation.

by Tharanya Arumugam.

NUTP Calls For Review Of Protecting Instructional Time Programme

Saturday, June 29th, 2013

KUALA LUMPUR:  The National Union of Teaching Profession (NUTP) has called on the Education Ministry to review the implementation of the Protecting Instructional Time (PIT) programme as it will cause more problems to the teachers.

Its president, Hashim Adnan, said the initiative to focus on teaching and learning process in classroom would restrict movements of principals, headmasters and teachers as they would be required to be at school at all time.

“Their duties are not limited to activities in school. Sometimes they have to attend meetings at the district education office or the ministry, and carry out co-curricular activities, sports and so on,” he told reporters after chairing the NUTP executive council meeting in the capital, Friday.

Hashim the meeting decided to reject the implementation of the programme and to urge the ministry to abolish it.

The programme was first implemented early this year with the aim to increase awareness on the importance to protect the students’ learning hours in the classroom.

One of the rationals is that the reduction of the instructional time should be limited to ensure increase of effective learning time for the students.

Among the guidelines for the programme is to ensure that co-curricular activities are being carried out according to the regulations stipulated by the ministry and to minimise the frequency of teachers leaving the classroom unattended.


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School’s out

Saturday, June 29th, 2013

Health of children must take precedence over education right now.

IN an examination-oriented country like Malaysia, the very idea of children skipping school and missing classes is one that would be entertained only by the most negligent of parents. Generally, nothing save for the closure of the school would keep parents from sending their children for lessons; and even then, schools are not expected to close indefinitely. So, the current situation, in which schools open or close depending on how the wind is blowing that day, is undoubtedly frustrating for parents. Parents are beset by the uncertainty of whether or not school will be opened or closed the next day, and if it is closed, what to do with the children if there is no one into whose care the children may be left.

The schools (and their head teachers) cannot be faulted for this uncertainty since closure is dependant on the seriousness of the haze. And even though the Department of Environment’s website does provide hourly readings of the haze, this still means that head teachers would have to make a snap decision a few hours before school starts (well before dawn for morning-session schools) on whether to close or open schools. This decision would then have to be conveyed to all parents, who then would have to switch to the Plan A or Plan B of that day. If the direction of the wind changes, the situation could also change in later hours.

The problem for parents is further compounded by the fact that the Education Ministry gives them the discretion to decide on whether or not to allow their children to go to school that day, should they be concerned for their children’s health. Although this is fair, a decision to withhold the child from school in the interest of his or her wellbeing is made all the more difficult by the worry that the child would miss out on precious education since classes are ongoing. For parents of children with established respiratory illnesses, the decision would be fairly easy, but what about with ordinarily healthy children?

Read more @: School’s out – Editorial – New Straits Times

Making our children world-class

Saturday, June 29th, 2013

PUTRAJAYA: The new Primary School Standard Curriculum (Kurikulum Standard Sekolah Rendah) or KSSR will empower students as well as the teachers and enrich them with the capabilities to increase their thinking and give them more room and freedom to exercise their creativity.

The Education Ministry’s Curriculum Development Department deputy director Dr Azian T. S. Abdullah said it would cater to all students and give them a chance to explore their abilities, especially those with special needs.

“For those that could not cope with the curriculum then we give separate teaching classes with different methods, that can encourage them to be independent.

“The curriculum also pays attention to special needs kids, as well as Orang Asli and Penan students,” she said.

She said they must make school a fun place for the Orang Asli pupils, as their learning capabilities and ways are different from other students.

She said they have to find ways to attract them to come to school, and increase the number of school-going children from among the Orang Asli and Penan people.

“For children who are talented and gifted, the curriculum allow for them to be fast-tracked, and lessen the period of time for school — to five years instead of six in primary, and four years instead of five in secondary school,” she said.

The KSSR, said Azian, will also be reviewed each year, to make room for improvements and to fall in line with the objectives in the National Education Blueprint.

KSSR was first established in 2011 for Year One pupils, which saw some subjects combined, and new ones created with themes on nationhood and patriotism.

The learning and content standards that are outlined in KSSR were specifically aimed towards ensuring pupils acquire basic literacy skills by the end of Year Three, and was also in line with the second National Key Result Areas (NKRA) for the ministry —to ensure all primary school pupils have basic literacy skills after three years of formal schooling.

KSSR will be implemented fully in 2016 where Year Six students will no longer be evaluated based on their Ujian Penilaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) results, but from their overall performance and classroom participation.

Azian said in four years time, schoolchildren will have the option of choosing a range of international languages to learn from, as the ministry is looking to implement a new syllabus under KSSR.The new curriculum seeks to introduce new subjects such as languages including Iban, Kadazan, Spanish and Arabic by 2017 in all schools nationwide.

by Aisyah Sulaiman.

Govt yet to decide on GST implementation, says Ahmad Husni

Saturday, June 29th, 2013

KUALA LUMPUR: The government has yet to decide when it will implement the goods and services tax (GST), said Finance Minister II, Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah.

He said the government has launched a study to compare the impact of the GST on the economy and the current prices with that of the earlier study in 2009.

“The study was undertaken again because of the changes in the economy and the prices,” he said.

Ahmad Husni said this in reply to the original question by Datuk Ahmad Fauzi Zahari (BN-Setiawangsa) at the Dewan Rakyat yesterday.

“Based on the study, if the GST were implemented, the basic essentials will be exempted as they are mostly used by the lower-income groups,” he said.

He said basic services like health, private education, public transport, tolls and residences, which were categorised as ‘exempt supply’, whereby GST will not be imposed.

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